Advising Students

Advising Students

The advisor provides the student with academic guidance, information, and general assistance. The advisee and the advisor must meet at least twice during the academic year (before the start of fall and spring semesters) to discuss the student’s proposed course of study and any procedural or personal issues relevant to the student’s academic experience.

Assigning Advisee to Advisor
Responsibilities of Advisor
Academic Information for Advisors
Student’s Mental Health and Well-Being
Publications Available for Reference Relevant to Advising
Resources for Advisors
Advising Doctoral Students
Students’ Right to Privacy  


Assigning Advisee to Advisor

(revised 9/24/2007)

Each summer, the Registrar’s Office sends to each department or degree program a list of all students (new and returning) expected to enroll as degree candidates or special students. Continuing students are included on this list as a mechanism to confirm information only. Normally, the graduate program director or the chair of the department matches advisee to advisor. The advisor must have a Harvard Chan School faculty appointment. This list of departmental advisor assignments is submitted to the Registrar’s Office and the student is notified of his or her advisor at fall registration. Only under unusual circumstances is a student notified of the assigned advisor prior to registration.

Students may change advisors after the initial assignment by completing a Change of Advisor Form, available in the Registrar’s Office. This form requires the signatures of the student, new advisor, former advisor and the department chair or program head.

The Registrar’s Office distributes a sign-up sheet for advising appointments prior to the start of the fall semester. Advisors should indicate on this sheet times they are available during the week of orientation and place this sheet on their office door so advisees can sign up for an advising appointment.

Responsibilities of the Advisor 

(revised 3/11/2015)

The student and advisor must meet a minimum of two times during the academic year-at the beginning of the fall semester and at the beginning of the spring semester. For students matriculating in summer-only degree programs, the advisor should be available at the beginning of and during the summer sessions. The advisor must review the proposed course selection of the student for each semester and evaluate the appropriateness of the courses for the degree program in which the student is enrolled. It is advisable to check that the student has followed through on the advisor’s recommendations. Advisees’ records are available on the myHarvardChan portal. Advisors also have online access to their advisees’ grades. Because students are often unfamiliar with the information provided in the student handbook, it is suggested that the advisor read the handbook and have it readily available for reference during advising seasons. While the handbook is only available online, a pdf format may be printed on demand.

Advising Doctoral Students 

(revised 9/24/2007)

The doctoral student section of the student handbook outlines information needed when advising doctoral students. Please refer to the handbook for the doctoral student timetable, a chronicle of progress milestones which doctoral students must pass to maintain satisfactory academic progress. Advisors may contact the Registrar, Joann Wilson-Singleton should they have questions about the doctoral student timetable.

Students’ Right to Privacy

Federal legislation passed in 1974 entitled “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (FERPA) governs who has access to student records and allows students to restrict the publication of their photographic image and/or the distribution of directory information to inquiries outside the domain of official university business. Advisors have access to all advisees’ records for the sole purpose of advising and counseling the student. Advisors may not distribute orally or in writing any specific information contained in the student record to anyone who does not have the same right to access to that student’s record. For example, an advisor may discuss an advisee’s performance in a course with that course instructor, but may not disclose any other portion of that student’s educational record to that instructor unless the instructor is the chair of the department in which the student is enrolled.

An advisor may keep private notes on the student’s performance in his or her personal possession, but as soon as those notes are made accessible to any other person (i.e., secretary, assistant, admissions committee member, administrator), those notes legally become part of the student educational record and may be reviewed by the student.

For more information on FERPA, a copy of the amendment may be requested from the Registrar’s Office (617-432-1032).

Academic Information for Advisors 

Number of Credits
(revised 3/11/2015)

Full-time students may take a minimum of 15 credits. While there is no upper credit limit, students wishing to take more than 25 credits in one semester must petition to do so (see below.) Students in a one-year program must complete 45 credits by the end of the academic year. Students in a two-year master’s program or a doctoral program must complete a minimum of 40 credits per academic year.

Full-time students wishing to register for more than 25 credits per semester must petition for approval. If the petition is approved, the student is charged tuition at a per-credit rate for each credit in excess of 45 per year. Full-time students registering for fewer than 20 credits per semester must petition for part-time status, risk losing financial aid, and may not complete requirements for the degree in the appropriate time.

Part-time students are eligible to take up to but not including 15 credits. Part-time students registering for fewer than 10 credits per semester, however, risk losing federal financial aid and may not complete the requirements for the degree in the appropriate time.

Tuition is charged on a per credit basis for all students whose program begins in the fall 2015 semester.

Core Courses for Professional Master’s Degree Students

Cross-Registration and the Appropriateness of Courses

Adding a Course

Dropping a Course

Withdrawing from a Course

Grading Options

Changing Grading Options of a Course

Incomplete Grades (“I”)

Failure of Courses

Grades for Independent Studies with Faculty Outside the Harvard Chan School

Grade Point Average (GPA) and Satisfactory Progress

Academic Difficulty

Absence from Exams

Time to Degree

Changing Student Status

Students’ Mental Health and Well-being

Issues of students’ well-being can be addressed to Amy Wooldridge, Associate Director of Student Affairs ( or 617-432-1542). Her responsibilities include:

  • overall health and well-being of students
  • student academic/learning support and mental health/wellness referrals
  • student disability-related questions
  • faculty and staff contact for student support

In addition, the following online resources may provide guidance:

Office of Student Affairs website lists the resources and support services available at the school.

Help@Harvard – This site is designed to be a central resource of university services with a focus on the physical and mental well-being of the members of the Harvard community. The comprehensive nature of the site remains a work-in-progress.

Publications Available for Reference Relevant to Advising
  (revised 9/24/2007)

  • Course Schedule
    Posted fall, spring and summer periods and includes course codes, titles, credits, meeting times and places and course notes.
  • Student Handbook
    Published annually and is available electronically. Outlines policies and procedures governing Harvard Chan School students.
  • Harvard Chan School Course Syllabi
    Can be posted on the “ICommons/ISite” system available through Instructional Computing.
  • Course Descriptions for all Harvard Faculties
    Compiled annually by each Harvard faculty are available on the web. Copies of catalogs can be requested from each faculty’s Registrar’s Office.
  • Departmental Publications
    Compiled and published by various departments and/or degree programs (usually annually) describing concentration and degree requirements.
  • Faculty Research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
    Describes each faculty member, his or her research and selected publications by that faculty member.
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA or “Buckley Amendment”)
    Federal law that legislates students’ rights to privacy and governs who has access to student records. Copies available upon request from the Registrar’s Office.

Resources for Advisors

  (revised 3/11/2015)

  • David Hunter, Dean for Academic Affairs, 617-432-2252
  • Committee on Educational Policy (provides overall advice concerning advising), Michelle Bell, Director for Educational Programs, 617-432-1778
  • Chair of Department (provides advice on departmental degree requirements)
  • Stacy Herman, Associate Dean for Student Services, 617-432-4703. Provides advise on administrative matters and policies concerning advising. Advises students on the availability of various student support services.
  • Joann Wilson-Singleton, Registrar, 617-432-4702
  • Amy Wooldridge, Director of Student Affairs, 617-432-1542
  • Committee on Admissions and Degrees, Chair, Marie McCormick, 617-432-3759
  • Elizabeth Capuano, Advisor to International Students & Scholars,  Harvard University International Office, Holyoke Center – 8th Floor, 617-496-2822 Advises international students on cultural issues, immigration/visa issues

You also may wish to consult with instructors of courses in which your advisee is enrolled; other advisors about their general experiences; or graduate program heads within your department.